When Elise Kaiser logged on to Zoom for a virtual happy hour with her sister last month, she had no idea the person staring back at her would instead be HGTV designer Brian Patrick Flynn.
As she sat in a state of shock beside her fiancé, the 31-year-old physician's assistant soon learned that Flynn, who has designed several homes for the network's giveaways, was surprising her with the news that she was the winner of the 2020 HGTV Urban Oasis sweepstakes — a prize package worth $650,000.
"I was completely shocked. At a loss for words completely," Kaiser told PEOPLE of the Zoom ambush. (Watch an exclusive video of the moment above.) "I recognized Brian and as he started to introduce himself and explain a little bit more, it all kind of started to set in."
The nearly 2,000-square-foot home, located in Portland, Maine, is a freshly remodeled 1900s New England cottage, imbued with the historic charm of the seaside city. Flynn worked to honor Portland's culture when designing the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom house, combining nautical themes with clean, modern lines for a cozy-chic finished product.
Kaiser, who lives in Seattle, Washington, with her fiancé, Matt, and their dog, Lola, has never owned a home, but explains that it's been on her list of goals for quite some time. In fact, it's what led her to start entering every HGTV home sweepstakes possible back in 2017.
"It's something that I did every morning on the bus ride to work," she says, admitting, "the 2020 Urban Oasis is the first time that I entered twice a day, every day" — the maximum allowed for the contest. She was selected from over 74 million entries.
As a healthcare professional navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaiser says winning the property means more now than ever, as home has become an even more important haven for the couple.
"Home has this new feeling of just safety and protection, which it had always had, but it just is kind of heightened in all of this," she says. "I think that everyone gets into healthcare to help people and nobody expected it to look how it's looked in the last year."
"I work in outpatient [neurosurgery] clinics, so we've had variation in patient flow with elective surgeries being halted for a long time," she continues. "But traumas don't stop, so we've still had a significant amount of patients coming through that are scared, just like healthcare workers are. I am fortunate to have colleagues who are really supportive and we've all kind of gotten each other through this, but it's just been a different year."
The pandemic has also impacted her personal life, forcing her to postpone her wedding, which was originally planned for May 2020.
Beyond the big day, Kaiser says she can't wait until she and Matt can host again, which is part of why the kitchen is her favorite room in the Urban Oasis home.
An avid HGTV fan, she says she gets a lot of her home and hosting inspiration from Chip and Joanna Gaines ("I feel like I know them when they're on," she jokes), but she and Matt love watching the Property Brothers and Love It Or List It, as well.
For now, Kaiser isn't able to visit the home in person but has been able to see every space on screen thanks to the 2020 HGTV Urban Oasis special — which first aired in October and follows Flynn throughout the entire home transformation process — and, of course, online.
"I've gone through all the photos and the virtual tour like 100 times," she admits with a laugh. "It's been a whirlwind. I'm feeling very lucky."
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